Arkansas Ozarks Fishing-White River-Bull Shoals-Norfork Lake-Buffalo-North Fork
Spring River is unique among Arkansas trout streams; its cold water comes naturally from a spring rather than artificially from deep within a man-made lake. Every hour, Mammoth Spring releases 9 million gallons of 58-62°F water, and the river stays cold enough to support a good population of trout for 10 miles downstream. Trout were first stocked here around the turn of the century. The first 10 miles also supports good fisheries for walleye, largemouth and smallmouth bass, redear sunfish, and channel catflsh. In 1989, tiger muskies (a hybrid of muskellunge and northern pike) were experimentally stocked into the small Spring River Lake, a mainstem impoundment about 2.5 miles below the spring. Some were pushed into the river below by a 50-year flood. They grew well in the cool, forage rich water. The current Arkansas State Record tiger muskie (23 Ibs. 12 oz.) was caught in 1995 in the river and was only 6 years old. They and the walleye inhabit the deeper pools. A 22-pound tiger muskie was caught from the river in February 1997.
The Spring River provides a lot of fishing diversity. The 2.5 mile stretch from Mammoth Spring to Dam 3 (an old hydropower structure) contains ideal fly fishing water in a large riffle area that can be reached from AG&FC's Lasseter Access Area. In that section of the river you may catch rainbows, browns, cutthroats, or brooks. Spring River Lake extends about a mile above Dam 3. This 55-acre lake has a maximum depth of about 25 feet. The river channel averages about 12 feet deep. The shoreline is characterized by beds of emergent vegetation, dense stands of Brazilian elodea (a rooted aquatic macrophyte), steep dirt banks, riprap banks, backwater sloughs, silty flats, and lawns. All the species mentioned above are presently caught in the lake. Walleye in the 12- to 14-pound range have been caught in the lake but most are in the 3- to 5-pound range. Channel cattish and rainbow trout are stocked in the lake. There is a boatramp at Cold Springs Access Area (AG&FC).
The AG&FC's Spring River State Fish Hatchery is situated on an island directly below Dam 3 (that's dam 3 in the photo). It was donated to AG&FC by the Kroger Company in 1985 and employs a unique system of 36 in-ground silos (16'/, feet across and 13 feet deep) for raising trout. Water from Spring River Lake is piped to the bottom of the silos and pours out the top of them to continuously exchange the water and flush the fish culture by-products. The hatchery is authorized to use up to 50,000 gallons per minute for the purpose of raising trout. Annually it produces 500,000 trout (mostly rainbows and cutthroats) that weigh around 385,000 pounds. According to Melissa Jones, Spring River State Fish Hatchery Manager (501-625-7521), the hatchery is open Mon.-Fri., 7 AM to 3:30 PM, and tours are available for groups of 10 or more. Smaller groups or individuals may take self-guided tours during business hours.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service operates the Mammoth Spring National Fish Hatchery (501-625-3912) in Mammoth Spring near the spring itself. This is a coolwater /warmwater hatchery that produces a variety of species including walleye, gulf coast striped bass (a threatened species), bluegill and redear sunfish, and smallmouth bass. The hatchery has a large aquarium display of native species for visitors.
Below Dam 3 the river returns to its natural state and is a very popular float stream for canoeists. It has some semi-challenging rapids, shoots, and falls. This section also has excellent trout, smallmouth bass, and walleye fishing. The I pound 5 ounce State Record Shadow bass (a close of the Ozark bass) was caught in this section. It is also in this portion of the river that the tiger muskies have become established and where many unsuspecting trout anglers have had their light tackle stolen by the big, voracious tiger. AG&FC maintains a number of access areas along the Spring River to accommodate various floats and wade fishermen.